Ending the Picky Eater’s Power Struggle
The Battle’s On
Your child might be winning now, but, losing later to finicky habits and poor nutrition.
Picky eaters can turn rational parents into obsessed, battle-weary, rationalizing, bargaining, pleading, crazy people! Whew, I’m worn-out just from describing it! We’re afraid our ‘little darlings’ will never eat balanced meals and will become malnourished skeletons, vanishing away like a puddle on a sunny day. I know; I’ve butted up against my share of picky strong-willed wonders. Someone’s cornered, and it feels like me!
Tough Love is not Mean
If you’ve done your due diligence with the family MD and he’s assured you they’re not going to die, then maybe it’s time to heighten your strategy and offer a little tough love. Although very cute, picky eaters are typically masters of the power struggle. If this is your child, read on.
How to Put an End to the Picky Eater Showdown:
- Give them some choices vs. unlimited choices. Let them choose their dinner sides from the colorful fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. Invite them to help with menu planning and selecting your Dream Dinners order. Avoid engaging in negotiations once you’re serving the meal. Try offering only two choices and let them pick. (Lettuce or spinach on your taco)? Don’t cook a separate meal for your kids.
- Introduce the new or ‘yucky’ gradually. Make sure there’s something on their plate they like.
- Don’t force-feed. It doesn’t work and besides, it’s controlling. The ‘Clean your Plate Club’ is overrated. They will eat when they’re hungry.
- Expect a ‘taste.’ It’s reasonable to expect them to at least try it. But, if just one bite turns into a power struggle, avoid making an issue of it; simply wrap up their plate for later.
- Make sure they’re hungry. Allowing chips and soda an hour before dinner is undermining your efforts. If you are over-feeding them snacks, cut back. If they’re “starving,” but dinner’s not quite ready, give them some fruits, vegetables, or a little appetizer of something you’ve prepared for dinner.
- Let them help in the kitchen. Children are more likely to taste what they prepare. Even little children can wash produce and tear lettuce.
- Don’t allow night-time treats if they haven’t eaten their dinner. Reheat and serve their leftover meal instead. Be of good courage. You aren’t being mean! It’s okay to let them go to bed with a few tummy rumbles if they don’t want it.
- Keep a routine. Our appetites adjust well to routines and we become hungry when the meal time approaches. Leverage their natural hunger to expand their narrow food repertoire.
Be Patient with your Child and Yourself
You’re both learning! This won’t last their lifetime. Set some boundaries and be consistent in keeping them. Eventually your children will surprise you with the amazing variety of foods they will eat. Someday, they might even introduce you to something new!
You can do it,
Stephanie Allen is Co-founder and President of Dream Dinners and a New York Times best-selling co-author of The Hour that Matters Most. Naturally a visionary and optimist, Stephanie hopes to inspire America through her nurturing voice of encouragement, assuring families… “You’re doing a great job!”